Lee’s Ferry and the Lonely Dell Ranch. I made a short stopover here many years ago and like most travelers I gave this location a minimal look. Today I have almost a full day here to explore. I paid the entrance fee even though it’s a gyp: the automated kiosk only sells the full car price and not the individual per person rate. I guess I don’t really mind. After all, a new picnic area has been built that is covered. The shade is very nice; your tax dollars at work. Plus I need the permit for day 9.
I walked all the way up the river as far as one can go to examine and photograph every historic rock and stone building in the fort area. There’s supposed to be a trail guide explaining all this but, naturally, there’s none in the little rack. I especially enjoy the abandoned boiler, sunken steamboat, and all the other desert crap (collectibles) lying around. Some of those pieces would look good in my yard but I left them there for others to enjoy.
The flat area ends at the Echo Cliffs. My hiking book says there’s a Spencer Trail that goes to the top but it’s strenuous with a 1,500 foot elevation gain. So, naturally, that’s where I want to go. The woman at the Navajo Bridge Visitor Center later tells me it’s more like 1,700 feet. Any history buffs would enjoy hiking along the rim for another mile or two to get to the Dominguez-Escalante crossing and hike down the cliff at the place these explorers did in the 1700s. I got some almost-aerial photos of the Colorado River and the covered wagon road on the other side. That wagon road looks EXACTLY like it does in the hundred year old photos showing the ferry loaded with cattle and horses.
However, I didn’t even make it half way. I ran out of water. In the middle of September the heat is almost 90 degrees – but at least it’s a dry heat! I’ll come back again when its cooler, bring my wife and she can sit in the shade reading and watching the boats come and go.
I wandered all through the Lonely Dell Ranch which is where John D. Lee lived in the late 1800s when he operated the ferry service. Subsequent owners and the National Park Service have done a great job of saving these buildings. Hand hewn means splitting tree trunks with an axe, stacking the split rails into a house and mud-dobbing the gaps. Fruit trees are still in the orchard and miles of trenches, the attempts to bring in irrigation from the Paria River are still evident. The old cemetery is there with original hundred year old headstones.
For a dollar you can take one of the full-color brochures for a guide. NPS has a good website for Lee’s Ferry but a good one I like for history, culture, hiking info, and color photos is www.delange.org/LeesFerry2/LeesFerry2.htm
I spend the night at Cliff Dwellers Lodge at Marble Canyon, Arizona. This motel never gets a chance to be written up in Trip Advisor because it’s not in a city or a town plus it is located between destinations, not at a destination. This place has character - tremendous character. It is built out of sandstone which was probably quarried out of the Vermilion Cliffs. This place is so old it has carports next to the rooms. It has a flat roof and looks like one or those old black and white vintage postcards of a route 66 motel. What a hoot! Inside the room are walls and ceiling of knotty pine. Everything has been updated over the years; furnishings, bathroom, a/c, heat. However, the carpeting needs replacing.
The restaurant has outdoor seating on a patio. Once again, patrons talk between the tables. You can watch the “magic hour” at sunset as the cliffs across the highway turn yellow, orange, and golden bronze. This will become the favorite accommodations of my trip and my best meal. Someone told me a couple of hundred miles away that they have great steak here. Well, it is great! It’s probably one of the tastiest Filet Mignon steaks I’ve ever had. I won’t describe the whole meal but my baked potato had Chili Verde Jerk Cream Sauce; All this with a glass of Napa Valley red wine. Good thing it was petite-size filet mignon. Dessert was chocolate kahlua mousse cake. Mmmm. I enjoyed this bite after bite for half an hour. Of course, this requires another glass of red wine. Unbelievable meal!
The stars come out by dessert time and the crickets are chirping all around. Fantastic! I’m here at the time of the new moon, or no moon, so there is a tremendous starry sky. We don’t usually have these in Southern California so this is very special. If you haven’t seen the Milky Way in a while - come stay here and you’ll see it! Ask for one of the older rooms for a step back in time.